Friday, March 26, 2010

More clueless exploitation of trans lives

I spent a good portion of the day, yesterday, reading and commenting in various locations around the internet about the movie, "Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives," that has been scheduled to run during the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival. The film, initially because of its offensive title and cruelly insensitive trailer and now because of its insensitive content, has generated a huge storm of protest from the trans community. The usual backlash against the trans community's outrage, from many gay men as well as others, has been as vile as it has been clueless.

The main criticisms of this film, its exploitation of a very vulnerable and still all too marginalized group, its inaccurate and demeaning caricature of trans women and their lives and the use of the word "tr***y"that many of us (myself included) find as offensive as the racial epithet thrown at Rep Carl Lewis last week, are described and well criticized by other, more knowledgeable, writers than I. One thing I've noticed though, is that the question of why the film is so badly written in the first place that it creates such a negative storm of criticism hasn't really been answered. I think I know why.

One of the first things I've learned about writing is that you had better write about things you really know if you want it to be any good. Writing about things you aren't well versed in produces bad art, causes all sorts of problems with inaccuracies and poor characterizations and generally produces mediocre, if not completely trashed, work. Israel Luna, the writer, producer and director of this film is gay. He's a cissexual, cisgender man. Yet this movie is about transsexuals, drag queens, women. Obviously he's so clueless about these groups of people, their reality is so foreign to him, that his work sinks to imagined caricatures. His insensitivity, transphobia and misogyny are thus plainly illustrated because he simply did not know any better and are exacerbated by his low budget, slapdash method, filming it in only 18 days.

A hint that he didn't, and still doesn't, know better comes from his reaction to the controversy.

"Luna wasn’t expecting this kind of backlash.

'I didn’t think that it would be such a topical thing or an issue, but we’ve been getting stuff about the name, the title, and using the word ‘tranny.’ And then there are people who are like, is it right to do an eye-for-an-eye kind of thing?” he says of the film’s critics. “When I was first writing the script, I just wanted to do an old-fashioned revenge movie. This group of people gets bashed. They come back for revenge. Done.'

Luna is puzzled somewhat by the controversy because the main theme of the film is empowerment, not victimhood — and certainly not mocking the trans characters."

Puzzled!?! His Male privilege, his Cissexual privilege and his Gay privilege all combine to shield him from the truth of trans people's lives. These privileges keeps him from knowing the truth of women's lives as well. Of course he's puzzled when trans women are furious over his caricaturization of the real pain and challenges from trans misogyny and transphobia they have to face every day. He obviously has no idea!

His marketing of the film was designed to produce the same morbid fascination, fear and loathing that the anti-trans political groups use against the entire TLBG community in their propaganda. Morbid fascination, fear and loathing that has its roots in transphobia and misogyny. Autumn Sandeen noted in her diary at Pam's House Blend that there are too many similarities between an image of this movie to the kinds of images used by hate groups such as MassResistance and the Traditional Values Coalition in their hateful propaganda against full political equality for the whole BGTL community. The most egregious example of Luna's perfidy, however, was his use of the names of two very real trans women who were brutally murdered last year, with no thought given to the triggering this tactic might engage in the trans community and the victims' families and friends.

A facebook page promoting a boycott and a petition drive has been launched to demand the film be removed from the Tribeca Film Festival schedule. The festival organizers have so far refused to consider doing so. Protests will undoubtedly be organized. I wish I could be there but the finances won;t allow it. I signed the petition, I urge everyone who reads this to do so as well.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It’s officially spring outside my kitchen! The crocus are blooming, the daffodils are coming up and I saw a robin for the first time this year last Monday. Of all the seasons, Spring gives me the most joy with it’s resurgence of life and the beauty of nature waking up. I’ve started to clean up the flower beds outside and started some seeds – rosemary and parsley – to augment my existing herb garden. Gotta have good stuff to cook in the kitchen!

Of course, in our generally bipolar world there’s ugliness too. A recent example: a hateful and untruthful screed written by another extremist Catholic (if only Paul McHugh were the only one!) Dale O’Leary, on the PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays) blogsite. She writes about the “deception” that trans people perform on society and how the non discrimination laws that protect us should not be passed because of that. She goes on to list discredited and vile “research” from the National Association for Research and Therapy for Homosexuality (NARTH) and the hateful Blanchard/Bailey/Lawrence “theory” of autogynephilia. She then expands her vicious attack on trans identified people by accusing them – only some, she says but then continues to generalize about the whole population – of being susceptible to narcissistic rage, defined as the,
…need for revenge, for righting a wrong, for undoing a hurt by whatever means, and deeply anchored, unrelenting compulsion in the pursuit of all these aims… There is utter disregard for reasonable limitations and a boundless wish to redress an injury and to obtain revenge… The fanaticism of the need for revenge and the unending compulsion of having to square the account after an offense…The narcissistically injured… cannot rest until he has blotted out [the] … offender who dared to oppose him, to disagree with him.
This venomous work has it all. It’s a primer on how the “religious” right anti-gay establishment propagandizes against trans people. Bogus, one sided and biased “scientific” evidence, dehumanization, pathologization, fear mongering and calls for reparative therapy all designed to make trans people look like mentally deranged sub-humans who need to be eliminated from social, cultural and legal acceptance via “treatment” (which is code for mental institutions, electroshock and torturous aversion therapy). The kind of rhetoric that practically screams at the simple minded and violence prone portion of her audience to go out and commit hate crimes, to “cleanse” society of this dangerous and unstable population. Ms O’Leary seems to be made of the same cloth as Dr Paul McHugh. Old, rigid and blindly prejudiced against any variation from the gender binary promoted by the Catholic Church, she can’t help, apparently, but write lies and distortions designed to support her prejudicial animosity against those who violate her sense of what men, women and sex ought to be. The fact that she is supporting bad science and misinformation doesn’t seem to be a problem for her. The fact that her rhetoric promotes oppression and harmful discrimination - even violence - is ignored. I think she needs to go away and follow in the tracks of all the other dinosaurs that have preceded her.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Blogswarm: Demand LGBT Employment Rights Today

While I hold no illusions as to the reach of this blog I cannot but add my voice, however faint, to the roar of support the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA, HR 3017) is getting today in the blogosphere. With the continuing delays in Albany for the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA) this bill is vital to New York's gender variant community as well as for all of us around the country. Especially now, when the NY legislature is all wrapped up in the budget mess, GENDA will be ignored for at least until afterward, and even longer if (as I suspect) it's used as a bargaining chip in that debate.

Employment protections for the BTLG always seem to be the last item on everyone's list but our own. One of the many reasons is because we have so few voices in our capitols. So few of us seem to be willing to make that phone call or send that email in order to agitate for our due. For many of us a big reason we don't is fear, fear of being outed and suffering the consequences of being outed among which are being fired from our jobs because we don't have any recourse to that kind of legal discrimination against us. Our political opponents, those who wish to force us off the map of social inclusion, know this and that's why they fight so hard against it. If we have jobs we feel safe in, we can then contribute all the more easily to the fight for marriage and immigrant reform and all the other issues that concern us but we can't even start if we are chronically un- or underemployed or afraid we will lose our livelihood if we speak out.

ENDA would be a big first step then to all of the other equality measures we are fighting for. We need to make our voices heard. We don't have to come out to do this either, we can call, voice our support for ENDA and leave it at that - our orientation or gender identity do not have to be mentioned. It may help to talk about those things if you feel comfortable about it but it certainly isn't a requirement.

So we need to call Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, to ask her to give the go ahead for this bill to be marked up and sent to the floor of the house and if your representative isn't yet a cosponsor or a vocal supporter of ENDA you need to call them too. Ms Peolsi's number is 202-225-4965 I keep getting a busy signal and I will keep trying until I get through.

From Jillian Weiss, at The Bilerico Project:

Will you join with us in asking that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people be protected from job discrimination?

Please call Speaker Nancy Pelosi at 202-225-4965. Ask that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, HR 3017, move to a vote.

Please be polite, but firm.

After you call, please tell us how the call went by clicking here. If you get a busy signal or hang up, let us know that too.

If you want more information on Speaker Pelosi's position on ENDA as stated by her office, you can find it here

Let's work together to let Speaker Pelosi know that we want action now!

Let's call and call and then call again - we need to be a thorn in her side about this, otherwise she'll think she can still safely ignore us. Please, do it now!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

With apologies to William Carlos Williams,

so much depends

the red lip

inside the old

In the back of the

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hi again! The kitchen is a bit warmer today, temperatures have been moderating and the sun has actually been shining more often than not since last Saturday! Truly a refreshing experience in western New York state! Our pleasure in the milder weather is tempered, however, by the latest tactic from those ever lovin' "Christians" of the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) against the federal Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA). They have published a new website titled "endahurtskids dot com" and have filled its front page (I didn't have the stomach to go further, if there are other pages) with this (emphasis theirs):

President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats are quietly rushing through legislation (H.R. 3017 & S. 1584) that would actually bring cross-dressing teachers into your child’s classroom. Under the so-called, Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), your children will be trapped in classes taught by drag queens and transgender activists. Students will be indoctrinated that “alternative lifestyles” are no different than traditional lifestyles. Young children will be forced to learn about bizarre sexual fetishes – and you will have no say in the matter. It is already happening in some states and concerned parents can’t do a thing about it – until now. This radical bill goes too far. That’s why the Traditional Values Coalition is standing in strong opposition to ENDA. Sign our petition . . .

As in the past, this "Christian values" based organization has resorted to hysteria, distortions, sexual innuendo and outright lies to promote the continued harmful discrimination against the gender variant citizens of our country. Look at the rhetoric they use, ". . . your children will be trapped in classes . . ." and, ". . . indoctrinated that 'alternative lifestyles' are no different from traditional lifestyles." They go on with, "Young children will be forced to learn about bizarre sexual fetishes . . ."
All of this rhetoric designed to frighten, to create knee jerk reaction and to stop any kind of rational thought.

They do this, of course, because any rational thought applied to their issue would show what kind of batshit crazy they're peddling here. They know that kids won't be "indoctrinated" into anything they aren't taught now because of this bill. The know that children are pretty much "trapped" in classes already by truancy laws that have nothing to do with federal civil rights protections. They're fully aware that alternative lifestyles are already discussed in an age appropriate manner and that teachers are responsible professionals who would not discuss inappropriate subjects in their classes such as "sexual fetishes." They ignore that trans people are already teachers and that ENDA covers gay, lesbian and bisexual people too, who are also teachers and educators with absolutely no evidence of any harm to children.

This kind of fear mongering is typical from this group. They have accordingly been designated as a hate group by the Southern Policy Law Center. They routinely use insulting and degrading terms for trans people and make up lies about them in order to deny civil rights protections for the entire GTBL community. I am personally acquainted, by the way, to two western NY teachers that have transitioned from male to female within the last 2 years. They report, with confirmation from objective sources, that the kids were a bit curious at first but very tolerant and accepting afterward. It was, they told me, the parents and the local "family" organizations that made trouble. TCV ignores these facts and level ridiculously scary but untrue charges designed to frighten people away from the facts and reality. And then they call themselves "Christian."

ENDA is about protecting people's civil rights. It adds basic employment protections for LTBG people to laws that already give these protections, and more, based on sex, national origin, ethnicity and religion - immutable characteristics and chosen lifestyles. Most people I've spoken with are surprised these protections aren't already in place! They support this law and have said so in national and state polls over and over again. ENDA needs to be passed, our representatives need to hear from people that they support the bill and the president, who has promised to do so, should sign the law as soon as it hits his desk.

Friday, March 5, 2010


On Tuesday, March 2nd, the New York State Assembly has passed the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA) for the third year in a row. The tally was 91-40, with bi-partisan support. My local assembly representative, William Parment, bless his heart, voted yes all three times but for the third year in a row the bill goes to the Senate with questions about how much support it would receive there.

My local state senator, Catherine Young (good Catholic girl that she is) has consistently come out and voted against civil marriage equality for same sex couples. After three trips to Albany to lobby for TBGL issues I have yet to meet her in person. The last time my group went to her office we were met by a staffer who had been with her for only a few weeks. He knew nothing about her position on the issues we brought up and seemed a bit out of his depth when we presented our concerns. I suspect we were the first group of GLBT activists he had ever dealt with in his life. Because of her opposition to civil marriage equality and the ignorance of her staffer I suspect she will not support the passage of GENDA. I certainly have never seen anything attributed to her or her office that indicates her position so I'll assume she's opposed based on her other votes.

I was surprised to read that, "Its unclear what sort of support the legislation will enjoy in the Senate." We were assured last year, before the senate's meltdown and the ill fated and ill advised marriage vote, that the votes were there for passage in the senate. Yet now we hear they aren't sure. All I can think is that the support for GENDA was squandered away in the push towards marriage equality. It certainly wouldn't be out of character for the Empire State Pride Agenda and the GLB faction in New York's government to throw gender variant people into the Hudson as a sacrifice to marriage rights or civil rights protections for GLB people.

I suppose we'll soon see how much effort is spent trying to get GENDA passed in the senate. ESPA has announced a "call in lobby day" for the future. I hope it isn't canceled the way the last one was. I'll give Senator Young's office yet another phone call and email. I hope, this time, it works.